Open Dreams was started based upon the fulfillment of my own dream. I was born into extremely modest circumstances in Bamenda, Cameroon and was afforded the opportunity to study at Washington & Lee on a full scholarship at the age of 21. I was the first member of my family to pursue a college education abroad, after making huge sacrifices and overcoming very difficult odds. My love for my native country and my unwavering commitment to one day better the region through economic and political advancement drove me to seek higher education in the developed world and today I am enabled and motivated to give back.
When I graduated from high school, I refused to be constrained by limited financial resources or geographical and cultural barriers to getting a decent education. I was lucky to have met Morgan, an American woman who had come to do some work in Cameroon. Morgan helped to pay for my college application process including paying for application fees, buying SAT and TOEFL prep. materials as well as paying for my flight to the US and buying my first laptop. I am always indebted to her for the time and resources she invested to help me realize my goal of studying in the US.
I am telling my story to inspire others who may want to give, reach out and help but do not know how. Thanks to the kindness of this young American girl, I was able to attend Washington and Lee University and I went to study abroad at the London School of Economics for one year where I discovered a passion for finance. Thereafter I interned at Deutsche Bank and returned to W&L for my senior year. I then was a Schwarzman Scholar studying in China, I currently work for a Venture Capital Firm in Mali, and will continue my education at the Harvard Business School next year.
I started Open Dreams to help others in a similar situation. I hope to someday return home and contribute to the political and economic development of my home country. Founding Open Dreams was the first step in this process.
In my little community, in Bamenda – Cameroon, where I grew up, education was a dream to many! Before I finished elementary education, my parents retired and there was no obvious source of funding to keep 14 of us going. Our destiny was left in our hands. Like a car that wouldn’t start and needed a push, I knew that my elementary education was a push enough for me to accelerate. I was privileged to have had the push
Thus the transition from high School to the University was more financially challenging; my studies got interrupted twice for lengthy periods of time. Since I was at the edge of academic survival, I stepped up my effort and it paid off – my skills in Computer, thanks to the books the British Council Library made available, fetched me a part time job as an accountant in a multinational company! I wasn’t a trained accountant but my science background and willingness to research and acquire new knowledge and skills enabled me to deliver the goods in a timely and professional manner. This earned the admiration of my boss and he entrusted me with lots of responsibilities. From this, I could earn enough money for my academic pursuits.
Today I choose to devote my life to paving the way to a decent education to my fellow Africans, so we can overcome poverty, disease, dependence etc. I serve my country, Cameroon, as a Physics Teacher and I also run a couple of other affairs in the business and academic (professionalization) sectors. Before the birth of Open Dreams, I had earlier setup a motivational group, Make it Big in Life (MIBIL) to act as a bridge between my students and educational opportunities the world over; the success has been awesome! I now manage all of our operations in Bamenda as well as our summer Open Dreams Academy.
Veronique Hob-Hob is currently serving as an advisor to Open Dreams. Our previous country manager, she has since moved on to work for recruitment for Minerva University. Before that she served as the marketing manager at Bridge Africa, a tech start-up which promotes African-generated content by enabling people to create professional websites to promote their business. Previous professional experience includes working as business development assistant at FHI360 in Washington DC and as EducationUSA country coordinator at the US Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. Veronique is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and the founding curator of the Global Shaper’s Yaounde Hub. Founding partner of New Frame Limited, a mobile app development startup that seeks to help businesses in Cameroon improve their brand. The startup was a laureate of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. Hob-Hob holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Williams College, where she, like Blaise, received a full scholarship. She believes in the power of education to change lives, and strives every day to open greater opportunities for Cameroonian students.
The baby of 10 children, I have always been driven by the passion that my parents instilled in me to help others. At age 21 my parents left Cuba to start a new life in the United States. Knowing very little English, they both worked hard to adapt themselves to U.S. culture and to build a family in a new country and culture. Thanks to my father's persistance and studies at Catholic University in D.C., he was able to provide for all 10 of us as a leading architect in the nation's capital.
I am very thankful for the amazing education that I have received at UNC Chapel HIll as well as the London School of Economics. It was at the LSE that I first met Blaise, in the African Presence Club at LSE. I was immediately taken aback by Blaise's poise and sincere interest in helping his country. I was eager to do all she could to assist him. Together, along with Hans, we founded Open Dreams to offer the same wonderful educational opportunities we have all received to others.
Now based in DC, I currently work as the President and Co-Founder of Open Dreams working alongside our wonderful team in Cameroon.
As the son of two immigrants, I have always felt fortunate and blessed to have the opportunities of a strong education, especially with the universities in America. Because my parents both came to the U.S. for educational opportunities (one from Sweden and one from the Phillipines), I recognize the power of education to change an individual's future.
After graduating from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I have worked in macroeconomic trading and investing, eventually starting my own economic consulting business. I feel very thankful for the incredible education and opportunities I have received, and I am doing my best to pass along these opportunities to others.
I believe that education opens the doors to many wonderful opportunities in life and it is a gift that can truly make dreams come true. I would like to see a world where opportunities are presented to all individuals and children, regardless of the environment they were born into and I believe technology is a means to achieve this goal. Education is a privilege and a right to Open Dreams. And I am so happy to be able to offer a hand to others who are so driven to succeed.
Matome Mokgoloboto is a Social Auxiliary Worker at the Elton John Masibambisane Center for Orphan and Vulnerable Children in El Dorado Park, South Africa. One of five children, Matome started his career with a Limpopo Community Development organization, , before joining the Johannesburg Child Welfare organization at Masibambisane as the programme administrator. He was the Limpopo Youth Leader of the year in 1997 and was the Limpopo Commitee Member of the Year for organizing World Aids Day in 2000. He has a diploma from Stanford College in Business Administration. In 2008, he established Unity is Power organization to enable Orhpaned and Vulnerable Children Centres to play toether, interact, and share their challenges and experiences.
Matome is extremely passionate about youth development and volunteerism, and is the head of our South African programs in Soweto. He helped organize Open-Dreams first Volunteer's Day in Soweto, and has proved to be an invaluable member of the Open-Dreams team.
Viktor comes from a family that places much value on education. When he was just a child, his family ventured from Hungary to the United States so that Viktor's mother could pursue a full ride Ph.D program. Seeing the opportunities the education could open up, Viktor joined the Open Dreams team in the summer of 2015 to coordinate operations on the ground in Cameroon and he currently sreves as a continuing advisor. He is a recent graduate of Colgate University with a major in Global Studies. He worked with Open Dreams students to assemble the Open Dreams Learning Center and Summer Academy and Library. After returning from Cameroon, he now assists Open Dreams on a part time basis from Washington, DC.